Senate Votes 51-49 to Fund Stormwater Cleanup

WASHINGTON (April 28, 2005) -- During debate on comprehensive transportation legislation (S. 732), the U.S. Senate voted 51-49 to provide communities across America nearly $868 million over six years to manage flooding and pollution caused by runoff from roads and highways. To the delight of environmentalists, clean water proponents in the Senate beat back an amendment by Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) that would have reduced funding for the Highway Stormwater Discharge Mitigation Program (Section 1620).

"The transportation bill is monumentally bad for the environment, but at least the Senate voted in favor of badly needed funding that will help improve water quality and clean up rivers, lakes and streams across the country," said Deron Lovaas, deputy director of NRDC's Smart Growth and Transportation program.

Stormwater runoff from roads, parking lots and other paved surfaces is the largest source of water pollution today, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A growing cause of beach closures and untreated sewage discharges, it occurs when stormwater overwhelms sewer pipes and treatment plants.

More than 5,000 cities, towns and counties must now meet Clean Water Act stormwater regulations -- and many large cities already manage stormwater pollution -- in order to meet discharge permits and other Clean Water Act regulations. But currently there is no funding for localities to address these requirements. The funding in the Senate transportation bill would help address this problem.

Lovaas credited the senators on the side of stormwater funding, especially Sens. John Warner (R-VA), Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) and Jim Jeffords (I-VT). Now, he says, the House of Representatives must agree in conference committee to safeguard these crucial funds "for the sake of clean water in communities across America."